Recent Update Alert - March 19, 2024 | Who Can Apply For Spousal Open Work Permit?

The Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) in Canada offers an invaluable opportunity for spouses or common-law partners of certain temporary Canadian permit holders, enabling themto work anywhere in Canada with few restriction. This flexibility significantly supports families moving to Canada, aligning with Canadian immigration goals to promote family reunification and contribute to the workforce without the common constraints of employer-specific permits.

This article delves into the application process for obtaining a Spousal Open Work Permit in Canada, providing insights into who can apply, the required steps, associated fees, and what to expect after receiving the permit. By understanding the eligibility criteria and following the outlined procedure, applicants can smoothly navigate through the IRCC's requirements towards securing their open work permit in Canada.

Table of Content:

Who Can Apply for Spousal Open Work Permit:

Eligibility for the Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) in Canada spans various categories, ensuring a broad spectrum of applicants can benefit. The categories include:

  • Spouses or Common-Law Partners of International Students: Eligible if the student have a valid study permit and you are studying in either a master’s or doctoral degree program in a university or polytechnic institution, or

  • one of the following professional degree programs at a university:

  1. Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS, DMD)

  2. Bachelor of Law or Juris Doctor (LLB, JD, BCL)

  3. Doctor of Medicine (MD)

  4. Doctor of Optometry (OD)

  5. Pharmacy (PharmD, BS, BSc, BPharm)

  6. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)

  7. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN, BSN, BNSc)

  8. Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.)

  9. Bachelor of Engineering (B. Eng., BE, BASc)

  • Spouses or Common-Law Partners of Canadian Permanent Residents or Workers: Those being sponsored for permanent residence, holding an Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) work permit, Quebec selection certificate (CSQ), provincial nominee, bridging open work permit (BOWP), or study permit holders are eligible. A genuine relationship and living in Canada with the sponsor are prerequisites

  • In-Canada Spousal/Common-Law Sponsorship Applicants: Must be in a genuine relationship with a qualifying foreign national principal applicant, permanent resident, or citizen, and not be criminally or medically inadmissible to Canada. Eligibility extends to those with a valid work or study permit, or eligible for restoration of status, and those with job offers in skilled occupations.

This comprehensive eligibility framework ensures that a wide range of individuals connected to Canadian residents, students, and workers have the opportunity to contribute to the Canadian workforce, thereby supporting the country's immigration and family reunification goals.

Application Process for Spousal Open Work Permit:

The application process for a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) in Canada is streamlined to support the efficient reunification of families and integration into the Canadian workforce. Applicants should follow these steps:

1.    Initial Steps:

  • For Spouses of International Students:
    Secure a Social Insurance Number (SIN) post-receipt of the work permit. It's advisable to consult with an expert for application assistance.

  • General Application:
    Apply online for the work permit through trusted partners.

2.     Documentation:
Provide proof of the relationship and the principal applicant's eligibility to work in Canada. A medical exam may be required. This process, while not employer-specific, allows for flexibility in application submission, catering to the varied stages of permanent residence applications and ensuring a smoother transition for spouses or common-law partners into the Canadian labor market.

Processing Times and Fees

Understanding the processing times and fees associated with a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) in Canada is crucial for applicants to plan accordingly. Here's a breakdown:

1.      Processing Times:

  • General Applications: Approximately 13-17 months, with some variations indicating a range of 3-5 months.

  • Visitor Visa within Canada: 10-27 days, varying by country for applications outside Canada.

2.      Fees:

  • SOWP Application Fee: $340 CAD, encompassing a $155 processing fee, an $85 biometric fee, and a $100 open work permit holder fee.

  • Permanent Resident Card: $50 CAD for a new card or renewal/replacement.

Applicants must ensure that they check the latest processing times and fees on Canada's dedicated webpage, as these can vary. Additionally, the validity of the SOWP aligns with the lead applicant's permit duration, emphasizing the need to consider the permit's length in planning.

Expectations After Receiving the Work Permit:

Upon receiving the Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP), individuals gain the flexibility to work for any employer across Canada, fostering  smoother integration into the Canadian workforce and society. Here are key expectations and guidelines for permit holders:

  • Work Authorization:

  1. Immediately eligible to work for any employer in Canada without restrictions.

  2. The permit's validity matches that of the principal applicant’s study permit or the duration of the permanent residence application process.

  • Compliance and Dependent Children:

  1. Must adhere to federal, provincial, or territorial labor laws.

  2. Dependent children can join the permit holder in Canada by applying for a visitor record.

For those with dependent children planning to work, it's crucial to verify the minimum age requirements in the specific province or territory and the job type.

  • Permit Renewal: Your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible to extend their existing open work permit under this stream if you meet the following requirements:

  • You have a valid study permit.

  • You’re eligible for a PGWP.

  • You’re a full-time student at one of these types of schools:

  1. a public post-secondary school, such as a college or university, or a CEGEP in Quebec

  2. a private college-level school in Quebec

  3. a Canadian private school that can legally award degrees under provincial law (for example, a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree)

These guidelines ensure that permit holders are well-informed about their rights and responsibilities, contributing positively to Canada's labor market while complying with local regulations.


Throughout this article, we have navigated the comprehensive terrain of applying for the Spousal Open Work Permit in Canada, elucidating the eligibility criteria, the intricate application process, associated fees, and what one can anticipate after obtaining the permit. These insights aim to demystify the complexity surrounding the process, presenting a clearer pathway for spouses and common-law partners of temporary Canadian residents to engage in the workforce seamlessly. By adhering to the outlined steps and understanding the associated timelines and financial commitments, applicants are well-equipped to move forward in their pursuit of employment flexibility within Canada.

The significance of the Spousal Open Work Permit extends beyond merely facilitating employment; it underscores Canada's commitment to family reunification and the broader vision of integrating newcomers into its social and economic fabric. As permit holders assimilate into the Canadian workforce, they not only contribute to the economic dynamism but also embark on a journey toward building a cohesive and inclusive society. For those looking to tread this path, staying informed and prepared is key—keeping abreast of updates and possibly seeking further advice or action where necessary can ensure a smoother transition into Canadian life, benefiting both the individuals involved and the country at large.


Q: How does one apply for a Spousal Open Work Permit in Canada? A: To apply for a Spousal Open Work Permit in Canada, applicants must satisfy several requirements to enhance their chances of visa approval. These include being in an authentic relationship, having a spouse with a valid Canadian student visa, selecting a study program that is eligible for a Canadian student dependent visa, and having sufficient funds for support.

Q: What is the expected processing time for a Spousal Open Work Permit in Canada in 2024? A: The anticipated processing time for a Spousal Open Work Permit in Canada in 2024 ranges from four to eight weeks. However, processing times may vary due to various factors.

Q: What does the first stage approval entail in the spousal sponsorship process in Canada? A: The first stage of spousal sponsorship in Canada involves the assessment of the sponsor's eligibility. The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) evaluates the sponsor based on their relationship with the sponsored individual, their financial ability to support the sponsored person, and adherence to the sponsorship requirements.

Q: What are the eligibility requirements for obtaining a Spousal Open Work Permit (SOWP) in Canada? A: The eligibility criteria for a Spousal Open Work Permit in Canada include being legally married to your spouse or in a valid common-law partnership, having been married for at least one year, the principal applicant holding a valid work or study permit, and not being criminally or medically inadmissible to Canada.


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